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My Home Town

Updated on October 8, 2014

Growing Up in Paradise

The Virgin Islands are truly paradise in every sense of the word. Growing up on the island of St. Croix was magical. Since I was born in St. Croix, that is my true hometown. However, I can claim St. Thomas as my hometown, too, since my younger years were spent in St. Thomas. Sometime during my middle school years, my family moved to St. Croix where I attended catholic school. However, we would go back and forth from one island to the other as we had families on both islands and my dad worked in St. Thomas. My grandma's house was a hop, skip and a jump away from a lagoon in St. Croix. Many a days we would trek there to catch crabs and swim. One of my fondest memories is of the family picnics we used to have at Cramer's Park. The whole family would gather together, bring side dishes and my uncles would roast a pig right there on the beach. We [kids] would be in the water just splashing around and having fun. It sounds strange to say, but living on a beautiful island surrounded by all that crystalline blue water, many of us couldn't swim a stroke.

St. Croix, nicknamed Twin City, is the largest of the three islands (St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix) of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Populated with over 53,000 residents, it is only 84 square miles . In an era long gone, St. Croix was the top sugar producing island of the Caribbean. Numerous ruins of sugar mills are scattered throughout the island. Whim Plantation, a sugar plantation that's been preserved, is one of the many historic sites. Christiansted and Frederiksted are the two main towns in St. Croix. I lived on Company Street, one of the main roads in downtown Christiansted. We used to call Frederiksted 'ghost town' because there was hardly anything ever going on there except for the carnival at Christmas time. Not so today. Frederiksted has its share of historical sights, like Fort Frederik, a National Historic Landmark. Frederiksted Pier is one of the most popular diving points in the island and the town is dotted with gift shops, merchant stands and local sellers. Then there is the Emancipation Park in front of the Fredericksted fort and waterfront. It's a beautiful town park with a small gazebo and statues of historically important Virgin Islanders. There is plenty to do in Frederiksted today.

Snorkeling in St. Croix

If you're a fan of this sport, snorkeling is a must in St. Croix! The hardest decision will be choosing a snorkeling point.

Coral World

The U.S. Virgin Islands - St. Croix, St. Thomas, St. John

Before planning a trip to the islands, get to know a little about their history, culture, customs and people.

Moon Virgin Islands (Moon Handbooks)
Moon Virgin Islands (Moon Handbooks)

This book is a gem! Packed with information on where to go for sights, entertainment, food, shopping and just plain getting-around in all three islands.

 
Cruising Guide to the Virgin Islands
Cruising Guide to the Virgin Islands

If you're planning on sailing in the Virgin Islands, this is the book for you. You'll find info. on mooring & anchoring fees, navigational information, equipment rental for water sport, help in planning your cruising adventure and so much more.

 

Old Sugar Mills - A past era

The islands are dotted with old sugar mills. You will notice these ruins of yester-year while touring the islands. Though not habitable, they have been preserved and serve as a historic site lending their own unique charm to the islands.

Welcome to St. Croix! - The Twin City

Tour the island in these videos and see the many activities that will keep you busy and entertained. From biking to colorful island festivals, you'll never have a dull moment in St. Croix.

St. Thomas 60th Carnival Celebration

Colorful costumes and festivities



Carnival Photos © Steve Simonsen Photography

Elaborate and beautiful costumes from the adult carnival in St. Thomas. Notice how colorful they are with intricate beading. Carnival celebration in St. Thomas begins on April 1 and goes through April 28. The festivities end with fireworks over the Charlotte Amalie harbor.

Overview of St. Thomas

Rock City

Charlotte Amalie in St. Thomas V.I. is the capital of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Spanning 32 square miles with very mountainous terrain, St. Thomas is by far the most adventurous of the three islands. It can be a challenge to drive especially since the roads are so narrow. But as you climb higher up the rough, winding hills you get a panoramic view of the waterfront below and the harbor where the big cruise ships dock. Over half of the 51,000 plus residents in St. Thomas live in Charlotte Amalie. The other inhabitants are sprinkled throughout West End, East End and other parts of the island.

After the sun goes down you can do karaoke, go dancing or bar hopping where you'll undoubtedly find 'happy hour'.

Shopping in St. Thomas is a blast. I love the charged atmosphere of people interchanging from store to store. It is so alive! There are lots of duty-free shops and boutiques offering watches, jewelry, perfumes, clothing, alcohol, china, crystal and numerous other items.

One of biggest events in St. Thomas is the carnival which begins April 1 and extends through April 28. The carnival begins with smaller events that culminate with the adult's Carnival Parade on April 28. This is a colorful extravaganza replete with costumes and dancing in the street that last from 7 to 8 hours and end up at the Lionel Robert Stadium. During the festival (or bachannal as we used to call it when I was growing up) you will 'tramp' behind the steel bands. Interpreted, that means you will dance in the street behind the steel band. This can last for a while and it usually ends up at the Village. Fort Christian parking lot serves as 'The Village', set up with numerous booths that sell native foods and drinks nightly during the carnival.

St. Thomas, US Virgin islands - A General Overview

Island Poll - Tell us if you've been to the islands.

Have you ever been to the U.S. Virgin Islands?

See results

Shopping in the Virgin Islands

Here is a list of stores and boutiques that sell everything... from jewelry to fine liquors to clothing. Remember, perfumes are duty free and no sales tax! Liquors and fine spirits are also duty free and tax-free up to 50% and more below U.S. retail.

Bougainvillea - Wonderful Island Clothing

Distinctive quality clothing and accessories.
Distinctive quality clothing and accessories. | Source


BOUGAINVILLEA

Shopping can be such a pleasurable experience in the islands. Stores open relatively early and if you plan accordingly, you can pack a lot of shopping into your day. Remember to dress 'casual' as the weather can get quite hot and humid as the day progresses.

The islands offer an abundance of colorful apparel and custom made jewelry to delight your senses. From trinkets to souvenirs to some serious shopping, you will uncover that special gown or one-of-a-kind necklace for your party or get-together.

After shopping sit back and enjoy a tall cool drink or a scrumptious lunch 'al fresco' in one of the many breezy sidewalk restaurants or cafe's right by the water. Ahhh! Rum Punch, anyone?

From The Gecko - Fashion collections

Exclusive collection in fashions and accessories.
Exclusive collection in fashions and accessories. | Source

What to do ...Where to go - Numerous Activities on the Islands

There are so many things to do on the islands. Your only problem will be finding time to do it all. From numerous water sports which include kayaking, diving and snorkeling to boating, fishing or swimming at a family beach park, you can choose your favorite water adventure. What to do if you're not into water sports? Well, you can tour the island, go to an outdoor concert, golf, explore the abundant vegetation by jeep, visit the racetrack, shop, enjoy a crab race at an island bar, or just dine leisurely at a local restaurant. From island hopping, to dancing the night away, ..... You can do it all in the fabulous Virgin Islands! Of course, you may just want to take some time off to relax and enjoy a lazy afternoon. It's up to you!

Island clothing

Wear it at the beach or around town. You're in style anywhere you go!
Wear it at the beach or around town. You're in style anywhere you go! | Source

Shopping in St. Thomas

St. Croix USVI T-shirt

Soft, comfortable and stylish no matter where you wear it.
Soft, comfortable and stylish no matter where you wear it. | Source

Walking Tour - The Many Beautiful Sites of St. Thomas

99 Steps - ....or 103 steps?

The famous 99 steps mentioned in the video above were the focal point of downtown trips for us kids. It was like a holiday every time we passed Government Hill and got to play on the steps.

As a child I remember trying to run up these steps every time we went downtown Charlotte Amalie. I didn't realize at the time there were so many steps. All I remember is that it was fun running up the steps. My sister and I used to try to run all the way up to the top and then jump back down one by one. We'd delight in picking the red and purple bougainvilleas that grew on either side of the stairs much to my mom and aunt's disapproval.

When I realized that, in effect, there are 103 steps I marvel that we were able to get to the top and still have enough energy to jump back down. Since there are 103, it makes me wonder why do they call it The 99 Steps? I haven't seen them for years. This picture brings back such memories!

Beautiful St. Thomas!

Beautiful St. Thomas!
Beautiful St. Thomas!

Please leave a comment! - I'd love your input on this lens

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    • JackieSonia profile image
      Author

      JackieSonia 3 years ago

      Thanks Ben. I now live in Florida which is somewhat like the islands weather-wise. I still miss the islands, though, and my family over there. As an artist I know you would find so much inspiration there in the serenity and beauty of the island. Hope you get to visit soon.

    • Ben Zoltak profile image

      Ben Zoltak 3 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      What a wonderful place to grow up! I've only heard of/researched a little of St. Maarten, the rest of the Virgin Islands are a mystery to me. I really liked the anecdote of you and your sister running up and down all those stairs, isn't that young life? Haha. I hope to someday visit your home town(s), as an artist such as myself, it looks to be a very inspirational place.

      Ben

    • JackieSonia profile image
      Author

      JackieSonia 3 years ago

      Thanks PhoenixV. My only lament is that I haven't been to the islands for a while even though I still have family in both St. Croix and St. Thomas. I'm planning a trip sometime next year.

    • PhoenixV profile image

      PhoenixV 3 years ago from USA

      It looks so beautiful there and I am so envious that you were born there! I grew up in the plain old midwest, and have never really traveled very much. Being born or growing up on a Caribbean Island is like being in a dream for me. I liked the ruins of the sugar mills and could see myself exploring the island all day long. Great article, thanks so much for letting us all see what it was like.

    • Kathleen Hiler profile image

      Kathleen Hiler 5 years ago from Mountain Home

      We have also seen this on House Hunters on TV and have loved it from that view..would like to go or live..if it weren't for kids vbeing here..we'd be gone!

    • profile image

      ideadesigns 5 years ago

      This is simply beautiful! I love your description of the islands and times spent at the beach as a family. I will bookmark this for sure.

    • Kailua-KonaGirl profile image

      June Parker 5 years ago from New York

      Fabulous lens! I have always wanted to go there. Maybe next year I can afford a trip. *Squid Angel Blessed* and added to "My Squid Angel Blessings for 2012" in the "Travel & Places » The Caribbean" neighborhood.

    • MarcoG profile image

      Marc 5 years ago from Edinburgh

      WOW! I want to be there - NOW! Fab lens :)

    • surfer1969 lm profile image

      surfer1969 lm 5 years ago

      A nice lens.

    • PleasantValley LM profile image

      PleasantValley LM 5 years ago

      What a beautiful place to grow up in! In addition to your great writing, I especially liked the colorful island photos and the helmet diving video. Thanks for sharing.

    • Inthepresentati1 profile image

      Inthepresentati1 5 years ago

      Great lens. I'm sold on the Virgin Islands.

    • JackieSonia profile image
      Author

      JackieSonia 5 years ago

      @SayGuddaycom: Thanks. Now I wish my URL would be visible.

    • profile image

      Lindrus 5 years ago

      Oh, just a tip - I had problems clicking on to your lens, because your title is missing, so there was nothing to click on...

    • SayGuddaycom profile image

      SayGuddaycom 5 years ago

      Gudday Jackie! You are now officially listed as a local guide on SayGudday.com! Check it out when you get a chance. You should be right at the top of the landing page but if you aren't then just go to the Learn from the Locals page across the top and then click on St. Croix or St. Thomas and it will take you straight to a post about you and your lens.

    • JackieSonia profile image
      Author

      JackieSonia 5 years ago

      @Lindrus: Yes, I know. I have let the squidoo team know and they're on it. I think if you click the picture, it will work.

    • profile image

      Lindrus 5 years ago

      Awesome lens with beautiful pictures and descriptions! Thumbs up!

    • SayGuddaycom profile image

      SayGuddaycom 5 years ago

      Gorgeous! Would you be interested in writing some travel guide pages for these beautiful islands?